A big letdown. I already knew something about WW1, and perhaps that's where the book & I parted ways. Right at the beginning. Although I didn't kn...moreA big letdown. I already knew something about WW1, and perhaps that's where the book & I parted ways. Right at the beginning. Although I didn't know the story of America's all-black 369th Infantry Regiment, the graphic novel form didn't do it justice. Though there are the compelling parts of the story--how America disdained these men that the French appreciated & Germans respected--they constantly have to make room for "trench warfare 101," describing the horrific life on the Western Front for those that have no idea about it. Who wouldn't know about it, yet picks up this book? At least it has a good bibliography, so I could read a real book about this amazing unit if I wished.
In the afterword the author reveals that this project was basically salvaged from a movie script he could never get made, thinking a graphic novel was kind of a movie "on the cheap." Maybe it would've been an ok movie, but it did a disservice to the printed page (illustrated or not).(less)
I liked the approach that spread the story around the six armies (American, Canadian, British, German, Polish, and French), allowing the chronology to...moreI liked the approach that spread the story around the six armies (American, Canadian, British, German, Polish, and French), allowing the chronology to jump a bit. That was fine, and I also liked how it went beyond Normandy & Overlord, bringing in Goodwood, Cobra, and even more-than-an-epilogue-but-not-too-much about the end of the war from the westwall to the very end. Likewise the appropriate sprinkling in of eastern front information.
I didn't realize (but should've) that tanks required rail transport for strategic movement, as their own mobility systems would break down over that kind of distance (e.g. from southern France to Normandy). Was also struck with how significant the allied air superiority was to this campaign...and how that's heavily abstracted out of the games on my shelf.(less)
Somehow I missed this as a kid, even though I was a LIBRARY kid that devoured everything interesting. Maybe back then old, European history doesn't so...moreSomehow I missed this as a kid, even though I was a LIBRARY kid that devoured everything interesting. Maybe back then old, European history doesn't sound as interesting or as important as it does to my middle-aged self.
Regardless, I'm glad I found this "children's" book bow, because it's really amazing. The illustrations are wonderful, of course, but what's just as good is how you learn something about the enormous engineering undertaking that one of these cathedrals was. I still can't get my 21st century brain to imagine a social construction project that takes hundreds of years. We struggle with 5-year projects now.(less)
The best part was the final third, where the legacy of the Kennedy presidency was examined by stepping through all of the administrations since that t...moreThe best part was the final third, where the legacy of the Kennedy presidency was examined by stepping through all of the administrations since that time. Because JFK was a Democrat--but also notably conservative by today's definitions--ALL of the Presidents since Kennedy have invoked his name to score political points. This is also the section where I learned the most, such as the friction between Edward Kennedy and Jimmy Carter, or how close Reagan came to being the next assassinated president.
The four stars may be a little generous for the rest of the book, which didn't cover as much new ground. The first third was the Kennedy campaign & presidency, with the middle third an exhaustive look at the assassination and investigation.(less)
I've slowly been trying to learn more about economics, and have a couple unfinished books on my shelf. When my buddy Greg raved about this one, a grap...moreI've slowly been trying to learn more about economics, and have a couple unfinished books on my shelf. When my buddy Greg raved about this one, a graphic (comic) book about the subject, I hunted down a copy at the library and raced through it. A great overview from Adam Smith to the present day, one that starts with a twinge of political ideology and ends with a LOT of it. I happen to share the author's eco-political views, but still took one star off for the overtness of it all. A little much, even for me.
That perspective will probably attract some readers and repel others. Nonetheless, I think just about everyone could appreciate the economic history that takes us from agrarian/medieval economies of the 1700s right up to the Industrial Revolution. That manages to include a lot of Smith, Ricardo, and other classical economists. That was probably my favorite part of the book.
P.S. I also wish there managed to be more about the economics of other countries. There's some the old USSR, mostly about the failures of a centrally planned economy. But I would've appreciated more about, say, France, Japan, Mexico, and so on.(less)
How many of these are real answers, and how many are made up for a funny book? Probably most or all are made up, but it's still funny. I got this for...moreHow many of these are real answers, and how many are made up for a funny book? Probably most or all are made up, but it's still funny. I got this for my son in college who appreciated the chance to laugh at tests just after finals week. Good for the soul! Then I picked it up and laughed out loud at many of the jokes inside.(less)
An odd book. Obviously the acts of the solider (Felixn Sparks) that it focuses on, as well as the entire 157th Infantry Regiment are incredible storie...moreAn odd book. Obviously the acts of the solider (Felixn Sparks) that it focuses on, as well as the entire 157th Infantry Regiment are incredible stories of courage & challenge. It had kind of a special meaning for me since they fought through & liberated parts of Europe I've visited, such as Southern France, Munich, and the Dachau concentration camp. Coincidentally, I finished the book while on a business trip to Denver, where Sparks made his life after the war. He's buried within 10 miles of my hotel, and I may need to pay my respects to his grave.
As a book, though, I was less impressed. Sometimes the action just droned on and on. Other times I felt the author (or his subject?) had a huge chip on his shoulder about how the actions at Normandy by other units overshadow the fighting done by these troops.
Also, it was awkward how the book tried to be both a biography of a single man, as well as a story about several military campaigns. Those different scales didn't mesh well.(less)
An entertaining tale, some of which may actually be true. Actually, I imagine that much of it is true, but it's about a type of hotel I don't typicall...moreAn entertaining tale, some of which may actually be true. Actually, I imagine that much of it is true, but it's about a type of hotel I don't typically go to for work. It's also filled with colorful but cynical stories about characters and places I don't care to visit, New Orlean's boozy convention hotels, and Manhattan's sharktank. Slipping the desk agent a "baby brick" ($20) may get you something in those places, but I believe it would be useless and awkward at a business hotel in Denver.(less)
Salter's book about F-86 fighter pilots in the Korean War was recently recommended (endorsed) on one of my favorite podcasts, the Slate Culture Gabfes...moreSalter's book about F-86 fighter pilots in the Korean War was recently recommended (endorsed) on one of my favorite podcasts, the Slate Culture Gabfest. It's a tight piece of writing (~250pp) about a man's honor & values, and for that reason Salter is compared to Hemingway. I've never read Hemingway, but from little I know about his work, I guess the comparison makes sense.
Salter himself flew these planes in Korea, and you can't help but wonder if the lead characters inner thoughts mimic what the author himself experienced. I don't think it's autobiographical, but merely informed by what it's really like to be in that unique situation. The uncomfortable relationship with another character, a weasel-y one that nonetheless has some real skill as a fighter pilot, is the strongest part of the story.
I was a little let down by the ending, although I expect others will think it was perfect, perhaps the only way it COULD end.(less)
Even in audiobook form, this was too much material for me to process at once. I listened two about half of the 50 hours in the spring, took a break wi...moreEven in audiobook form, this was too much material for me to process at once. I listened two about half of the 50 hours in the spring, took a break with other material, then returned to finish it late this summer. It was fantastic. I'm a Europhile, but am mostly familiar with the broad sweep of history, as well as the contemporary experience of an American tourist. This book filled in all of the details about how the Europe I know & love was the product of a complicated history since devastation in two world wars and political upheaval. The description of them as Europe's thirty year civil war makes a lot of sense. It's fascinating how a place so appealing for its centuries of tradition & history was rebuilt & changed in the decades of my own lifetime.
The author had the good timing to finish this work in 2005, sufficiently after the end of the cold war to include the dramatic changes to central & eastern Europe, and to view them in the broader context. Also, peripheral places like Spain and Greece received sufficient attention--this isn't just about France, Germany, Britain, and the formation of the EU. Far from it.
What doesn't make much of an appearance is America, except as a context during the Cold War (well, and the Marshall Plan). The rest of the world (Asia, Africa) is even more absent aside from post-colonialism's effects on the parent countries of Europe. I think that's ok, though in the 21st century we're used to thinking that EVERYWHERE has some economic connection, and sometimes political and cultural ones, too.(less)
Since I'm working on the next version of this same spacecraft (InSight is a reflight of Phoenix, but with a new science payload to a new part of the p...moreSince I'm working on the next version of this same spacecraft (InSight is a reflight of Phoenix, but with a new science payload to a new part of the planet), I'm particularly interested in these stories. I've read the other books about Mars Pathfinder, the Spirit/Opportunity rovers, and will gladly read the Curiosity book whenever it comes out.
This one was different, though. The other books were written about the development and execution of those challenging spacecraft. This one starts the story after Phoenix had already landed on the surface of Mars--it covers the science operations and the scientists that argue about what to do. There's some engineering in there, but not as much as I'd hoped. (The engineer-scientist distinction is one that may seem slight to most folks, but it's a big deal to me. One is design-and-build-the-machine, the other is conduct-the-experiments.)
Also, the author is really in love with his hipster style, and his self-awareness got in the way of the techie story I wanted to read. In the beginning. Later, though, when things really got rolling on the Phoenix mission, that aspect faded away (or maybe I just got numb to it), and I enjoyed it more. Once the acronyms start flying, I know I'm in my element. :-)(less)
For a student of military history, I keep finding out things I didn't know. For WW2, I've had an American's typical understanding that focuses on the...moreFor a student of military history, I keep finding out things I didn't know. For WW2, I've had an American's typical understanding that focuses on the Western Front (and Pacific Theater), knowing only vaguely about the cataclysm occurring on the Eastern Front. This book focuses on the central part of that conflict, Nazi Germany's push towards the heart of the Soviet Union. It covers the battle, but spends more time on the broader political and social history of that time. Hitler's boldness...and mistakes, Stalin's ineptness...but ultimate victory through ruthlessness and enormous resources. The panic & anarchy during the very near collapse of Moscow (and perhaps the Soviet Union, and then the war?) is a story that isn't well known.
That the Soviet people endured such paranoid & self-destructive government that placed no value on their well-being or LIFE...then fought for that government against an even greater(?) evil is mind-boggling. Nothing like it in the west compares.